MHL Premier Division Review – 8 March
The battle to avoid automatic relegation to Division One and finish ninth and avoid a two leg playoff with the loser of the Division One North and South playoff will go to the final weekend after Reading came from 1-0 down to beat Brooklands Manchester University 3-1 and keep their hopes of staying up alive.
Reading closed to within one point of Brooklands and two points of the University of Exeter after falling behind in the fifth minute as Leo Watton gave Brooklands the lead. Reading levelled immediately after half time through Oscar Allan before a second goal from Allan in the 62nd minute was quickly followed a minute later by Peter Scott’s strike.
As with Brooklands and Reading, the University of Exeter can be automatically relegated, finish ninth or even end up safe by finishing eighth, but they lost 5-2 at home to Old Georgians. Exeter trailed 4-0 at half time, Tom Carson scoring in the 15th and 28th minutes; Ashley Jackson scoring in the 22nd minute and Sam Ward continuing his comeback with the fourth goal in the 31st minute.
Archie Winter pulled a goal back for Exeter in the 37th minute, but Ward struck again in the 51st minute from a penalty corner. James Ferguson also converted a penalty corner in the penultimate minute, but fans in Devon face a nervous wait until next Sunday when they will find out their fate.
Old Georgians stayed fourth, two points behind third-placed Wimbledon, 6-1 home winners over Holcombe. Wimbledon led 1-0 at half time after Ed Horler scored in the fifth minute, but found their form in spectacular fashion in the second half. Horler doubled Wimbledon’s lead in the 43rd minute before Ronan Harvey-Kelly added a third goal three minutes later. Phil Roper made it 4-0 in the 57th minute, but although Kieran O’Connor scored for Holcombe in the 59th minute, Ben Arnold’s 64th minute goal and Harvey-Kelly’s second goal of the game with four minutes to play boosted Wimbledon’s momentum towards the playoffs.
Hampstead kept up their hopes of hosting a semi-final by winning 6-1 at East Grinstead. The West Sussex club had failed to score in their previous two games, but were quick off the mark, Luke Emmett netting in the first minute. After that it was all one way traffic as Kai Kaeppeler levelled within three minutes, Chris Cargo gave Hampstead the lead for the first time in the 13th minute and Matt Guise-Brown scored in the 27th minute, Hampstead leading 3-1 at the interval.
Guise-Brown completed a penalty corner hat-trick with further goals in the 38th and 52nd minutes, Will Calnan chipping in in the 50th minute.
All four playoff bound teams were in excellent form with regular season league champions, Surbiton winning 7-1 at Beeston. Luke Taylor, battling with Wimbledon’s Horler for the top scorer crown, scored five times, giving a penalty corner masterclass with goals in the 10th, 21st, 48th, 55th and 60th minutes to take his total to 28 goals for the season, one coming from the penalty spot. Alan Forsyth scored from open play in the 51st minute and David Goodfield scored in the 62nd minute, Surbiton’s hopes of a third successive clean sheet only thwarted by Adam Dixon’s last minute penalty corner conversion.
Next Sunday, Reading have to win at Old Georgians to have any chance of staying up, whilst Brooklands host East Grinstead and the University of Exeter go to Holcombe. Hampstead & Westminster host Beeston and Surbiton end the regular season with a home London derby against Wimbledon.